Teacher Appreciation Week: What Teachers Really Want

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Teacher Appreciation Week is nearly upon us and, if you’re like me, your Instagram and Facebook feeds are filled with gift ideas for the special teachers in your life. Many of these are adorable and fun and would be thoroughly appreciated by their recipients, but there’s one thing teachers would love to receive from you that they rarely get.

I taught middle and high school for seven years before I had kids. It was the hardest and most rewarding thing I had done up to that point in my life. Throughout my years in the classroom, I was lucky enough to feel appreciated by many of my students and their parents. I’m a firm believer that you get what you give in terms of encouragement. When you throw it around like confetti, people feel more comfortable encouraging you, too.

Despite this, Teacher Appreciation Week often felt forced. It usually boiled down to an annual breakfast put on by the PTA and a stack of colorful new sticky notes (which are, to be fair, actual gold to a classroom teacher). While the recognition by the PTA is nice, it’s rare for a teacher of older kids to receive more than that. 

Teachers chose this profession because they truly love your kids and seeing the “aha!” moments when an idea finally clicks for them. That’s why one of the most meaningful gifts you could give them is an e-mail. Seriously. That’s it. And it will absolutely make their day.

In college classes, inservice meetings, staff meetings, and department meetings (teachers attend so. many. meetings.), one thing that is constantly drilled into teachers’ brains is the idea of giving specific praise. This means they’re not just telling your child “good work!” but rather telling them what they did well and why it was so great. It takes time, effort, and practice to do this on a regular basis, but it’s important for the kids. Teachers are pouring energy and love into our kids and they deserve to know how much it means to us as parents.

So, what do you write? Be specific! Tell them something your child has told you about their class. Share a win you noticed your child has had over the course of the school year. Let them know you appreciate their hard work. Parents are often quick to call or e-mail when they’re not happy about something, but they’re nowhere near as quick to call or e-mail when they are. A parent or student offering up praise and encouragement could be enough to keep a teacher going in a difficult school year. 

Want to really wow them? Have your child write a note of their own in a card. If you still want to include a tangible gift, consider including a few of those flair pens or sticky notes you know they love. It’s easy, cheap even for 6 or 7 teachers if your kids are older, and will make a huge difference for the people who are spending their day loving and teaching your kids. 

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